HOUSTON – Northwestern State is halfway through the Southland Conference schedule and, if the past two games are any indication, have unlocked the next level of its development as a team.
A pair of home wins where the defense allowed 52 points or fewer each time and just six total made 3-pointers from two of the better deep shooting team in the conference serve as the baseline for the push towards the conference tournament.
The Lady Demons (9-10, 5-4) can take another important step this week if they can get repeat performances and results when it faces HCU and Lamar, the same teams they beat a week ago in Natchitoches, this time on the road.
Tipoff for Thursday’s game against HCU (8-12, 3-6) is set for 5 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN+. Free streaming audio will also be available at www.nsudemons.com/watch.
“Our overall growth has been genuine belief in ourselves and genuine belief in what we’re trying to accomplish as a team,” head coach Anna Nimz said as the biggest improvement through the first half of the conference schedule.
“The buy in is continuing to grow and we’re starting to see that more and more now that we’ve had multiple people in the program for almost two full years. They’re starting to play better together and believe in one another. That’s going to pay dividends as we continue to go through the rest of the season.”
The combination of effort, energy and enthusiasm Nimz attributed to the two stellar defensive performances a week ago are by products of the growth and belief the team has continued to develop as the season has progressed.
Getting stops on one end of the floor is only half the battle in winning games. The next step for the Demons is to find that same effort, energy and enthusiasm, mixed with more poise and execution, on the offensive side.
“Thankfully for four quarters we were able to play incredible defense, but this is where that maturity and continued growth has to happen,” Nimz said. “We missed a lot of opportunities in the past two games to hit different positions on the court that are key to our offense. When the quick shots aren’t happening, we need to stay disciplined in running the offense and moving it side-to-side in the overall execution.”
NSU continues to rank near the middle of the pack in offensive production at 60.0 points per game in league play with a league-low .371 field goal percentage. The Demons are tied with Lamar for most 3-pointers made per game with the second-best 3-point percentage in the conference to account for the lower overall shooting percentage.
Candice Parramore has been the hot hand recently, coming off a pair of 20-point outings to earn her and NSU its first conference player of the week honor of the season. She is averaging 18.0 points per game over the past five and shooting better than 50 percent from beyond the arc.
Jiselle Woodson and Sharna Ayres have contributed double-digit scoring efforts in the past two games and the Demons will look for them plus a handful of others to get in on the action more consistently, converting on the open shots when they come available and avoiding forced shots if the open ones don’t find the net.
NSU is 1-3 in road conference games this year and will need every bit of last week’s defensive prowess to earn another win over the Huskies in a difficult place to play.
HCU had its second lowest shooting performance of the season a week ago in Natchitoches. It was the first time since conference play it was held below 30 percent from the field and only now No. 3 ranked LSU held it to a lower shooting effort this year.
“We’re excited to have pulled out the win last week against them, but there are a lot of things that shore up to be able to go into their place and do it again,” Nimz said “They are a very good team and are going to be able to see their break downs and the break downs we had as well from that game. Defensive effort was there for us but we had some late rotations and offensively there are a lot of things we have to fix, namely those scoring lulls that we’ve seen the past few games.”